Saturday, June 28, 2008

Joe Coney - Risk Taking Developer

[Gravestone of Joe Coney taken by Michael Colbruno; Lake Ilsanjo]

Joseph J. Coney (1895-1998) was a fearless risk-taker and business executive who for four decades owned the land that later became Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa.

Born April 1, 1895, in San Francisco, Coney had to evacuate his home during both the 1906 earthquake and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

After studing engineering, he became a naval architect for Consolidated Steel, then he founded Pacific Coast Engineering. For many years Coney was a partner in Hillcone Steamship Company with Stanley Hiller, whose son, Stanley Jr., developed the first helicopter. The company operated oil tankers. The two men also owned gold dredging operations from California to Alaska. In the 1930's he acquired, and then lost, the fishing rights for all of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In 1954 Hiller and Coney, who had been buying up the tidelands along the south shore and Bay Farm Island in Alameda for some 30 years, proposed a major development. The plan called for building 1,500 homes and a six-lane freeway about 2,000 feet offshore that would connect with a new Bay bridge dubbed the Southern Crossing. Faced with strong opposition from Alameda residents, the developers withdrew their plan and sold their property to the Utah Construction Company.

During the 1960s Coney and Hiller were instrumental in the development of Benicia Industrial Park.

Coney may best be remembered as the man who gave the exotic name to Lake Ilsanjo in Annadel State Park. The name combined the first names of his late wife of 72 years, Ilse, and his own. For many years, Annadel was Coney’s private reserve where he hosted lavish parties, built giant hop kilns, mined perlite, hosted hunting parties, raised Black Angus, raised and trained horses, allowed the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to use the property, and set up shooting ranges for the California Highway Patrol and the FBI.

Coney stayed active as a senior citizen, driving until he was in his 90s and taking a lease for an office for himself when he was 95. When he was a 100 years old, he lived in modest splendor on the shores of Oakland's Lake Merritt. He died at a Berkeley retirement community at age 103.

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William Irvin Brobeck - Lawyer Involved in Bribery Scandal

[Photo of Brobeck gravestone by Michael Colbruno]

William Irvin Brobeck was a prominent attorney, deputy city attorney and counsel to the Key System.

In 1903, after eleven years as a deputy in the San Francisco City Attorney’s office, Brobeck was offered the Democratic Party nomination to run for City Attorney, but declined. He became the chief deputy to City Attorney Percy V. Long and handled many of the major issues in the office. In declining the nomination, he expressed interest in going to the private sector, but first he wanted to wrap up some major tax and railroad cases that involved the city.

In 1906, he joined Alexander Morrison and Judge Walter B. Cope in founding the Morrison, Cope & Brobeck law firm (later Morrison & Foerster).

In 1907, Brobeck was indicted along with San Francisco Mayor Eugene Schmitz and Abraham Ruef for bribing Supervisors to vote for a trolley franchise to the Parkside Transit Company. With the assistance of Mayor Schmitz, the political boss Ruef arranged for the bribery of the Board of Supervisors by public utility companies and other powerful business interests including United Railroad. The prosecutor in the case was Francis J. Heney, who was succeeded by Hiram W. Johnson, when Heney was shot in the courtroom. The case helped launch Johnson's political career. Only Ruef was convicted of bribery in 1908 and sentenced to a 14-year prison term.

Around 1910, Brobeck was one of the founders of the Morrison, Dunne & Brobeck law firm in San Francisco (later Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison). At the time, the firm represented some of the most prominent families and businesses in San Francisco, including American Trust Company, Moore Shipbuilding Company, St. Francis Hotel Company, and the Crocker, Matson, and Spreckel families.

He served on the Board of Trustees at Mills College.

Brobeck died of heart failure on a boat while on an Alaskan vacation near Sitka with his wife and son.

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Beautiful Light

[Mausoleum and Flowers photo by Michael Colbruno. Click on image for larger view]

The recent fires in the Bay Area have filled the air with smoke. While this is horrible for the elderly, infirm and small children, it does create some amazing light. The sunsets have been vivid orange and the morning sky is almost like being at the polar caps.

I took this shot of the main mausoleum around 5:30 PM and the natural light is something that a photographer can only dream of.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Collin Wilcox - Mystery Writer; Created TVs "McCloud"

[Collin Wilcox gravestone photo by Michael Colbruno]

Plot 33

Collin Wilcox (1924-1996) was a lamp retailer turned mystery writer who published 30 books in 30 years.

Born in Detroit, Michigan he first book was The Black Door (1967) featuring a sleuth possessing extrasensory perception. His major series of novels was about Lieutenant Frank Hastings of the San Francisco Police Department. Titles in the Hastings series included Hire a Hangman, Dead Aim, Hiding Place, Long Way Down and Stalking Horse. Two of his last books, Full Circle and Find Her a Grave, featured a new hero-sleuth, Alan Bernhardt, an eccentric theater director. Wilcox also published under the pseudonym "Carter Wick".

However, Wilcox's most famous series-detective was created in Hollywood: Sam McCloud, the New Mexico deputy solving New York crime. The "urban cowboy" was brought to life on the small screen by Dennis Weaver in the 1970-1977 TV series McCloud. Wilcox wrote three novelizations based on scripts from the series: McCloud (1973), The New Mexican Connection (1974), and The Park Avenue Executioner (1975).

He died in San Francisco from cancer at the age of 72.

[Biography taken from Wikipedia]

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Adley Cummins - Philologist

[Adley Cummins "big book" gravestone photo by Michael Colbruno]

Adley Cummins (1850-1889) was a scholar, philologist, attorney and businessman. A native of Chester County, Pennsylvania, he was educated at Northwestern University. He was married to Ella Cummins Mighels [see following post].

He came to California in 1869 with General Towne of the Southern Pacific Railroad at the age of 19. He continued his studies in California and by the age of 30 he mastered the grammar and construction of 60 languages and dialects. In order to master his linguistic studies, Cummins ordered books from around the world. For many years his book “Grammar of the Friesic Language” was considered the standard in the field. He was an expert on languages that literally only a few people could speak, like Zend and Avesta.

He was a frequent lecturer at the Academy of Sciences on such topics as, “The Semitic Race,” “History of Liberty,” and “Alphabets and Numerals.”

Ambrose Bierce once commented about him, “I remember Mr. Cummins as one whose work was thought too good and scholarly for the public, to whom I was employed to throw smoked pearls. I remember, too, that he impressed me rather oddly as being out of place in San Francisco.”

Cummins was known to relax by reading Sanskrit texts like the Mahabarata, Sakuntala and Vedas.

Many of his thoughts were extremely progressive, including claims that many Biblical stories were based on ancient myths, such as the story of Cain and Abel, which he tied to Chaldaic mythology.

In his article, “The Corrupter – Wealth,” he wrote:

It is wealth that kills a nation; not as wealth, but because of the inequality of its distribution,

No nation has ever yet gone to decay because it was poor.

This is a matter which concerns us deeply as Americans – not to prevent the increase of wealth, but to remedy and prevent the monstrous, the gigantic inequality of its distribution now permitted in society.
It was frequently stated that he was of weak health and he died at aged 39.

Enormous credit must be given to Mountain View Cemetery docent Stafford Buckley who spotted this interesting "big book" gravestone and began the research.

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Ella Sterling Cummins Mighels a.k.a. Aurora Esmerelda - First Native Californian to Publish a Novel

[Photo of Ella Mighels gravestone by Michael Colbruno]

Ella Sterling Cummins Mighels (1853-1934) was a prolific historian who preserved much of the early literary history of California. Her goal was to be the “link between the Gold Rush days and the twentieth century’s brave new world.”

Mighels was born in 1853 outside of Sacramento, California near a gold rush mining camp called Mormon Island. Her father, Sterling Benjamin Franklin Clark, came to California from Rutland, Vermont in the Gold Rush of 1849. His mining efforts were successful enough to allow him to purchase property holdings around Sacramento, where he eventually became a judge. He died seven months before Ella was born.

Ella’s mother went on to open the first school in the Sacramento area and remarried a gold miner and Nevada legislator named Dudley Haskell.

At the age of ten, Ella had a fairy tale published in the Aurora Union, the newspaper in the Nevada town where they were living. From that moment on, she considered herself a writer. She continued to write fairytales and children’s stories her entire life. Later in life she adopted the pen name Aurora Esmerelda.

In 1872, Ella married Adley Cummins in Sacramento [see adjoining bio]. The had one child together, Genevieve, who was born on October 17, 1875. The family moved around considerably between the birth of their daughter and 1889, all the while maintaining a home in San Francisco. During this time Ella published her novel Little Mountain Princess, the first novel by a native Californian.

In 1889, Adley Cummins died at the tender age of 39 and Ella immersed herself in writing about the California pioneers. She portrayed them as neither good nor bad, but as human and hard-working.

In 1913, Ella Mighels founded the California Literary Society. In 1919, the California State Legislature named her the “first historian of literary California." Note that her gravestone is a giant book.

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Poem about Mountain View Cemetery from 1893

[Photo of cherub at Mountain View Cemetery by Michael Colbruno]


By Josie T. Hatman (1893)

Silence spreads her soft, dove-colored wings
Above the opal waters of the bay;
From yonder covert, copse, a lone bird sings
His farewell song to the fast-dying day.
“Good-bye, good-bye, - Peace fold thee to her
Floats benedictive from the sky to earth;
While flowers close their eyes and sink to rest
Upon the gentle heart that gave them birth.

Blending in rare, harmonious reliefs,
Sweep undulating curves of gray and green;
While the ship Twilight spreads her tinted reefs,
And sails the shores of day and night between,
Towards the long line of purple hills that skirt
The east horizon tinged with faintest rose.
Like sentries tall, the eucalyptus girt
And guard full well this city of repose.

“Asleep in God.” Silence hath set her seal
In reverence upon these peaceful graves,
Till, clothed in majesty, the Lord reveal
Life’s mystery. Oh, many a sad heart craves
To be at rest beneath the quiet trees
That cast their grateful shadows on the turf;
Far from the tumult of life’s rolling seas,
No more to battle in the angry surf.

[Note: Blogger will not allow me to properly format this poem, so indentations are missing]

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Emma Marwedel - Founder of Kindergarten Movement in U.S.

[Photo of Emma Marwedel gravestone by Michael Colbruno]

Plot 11

Emma Marwedel was born in Munden, Germany to a family of social standing. However, her parents died when she as young and she was left with limited means to support herself. She became an ardent feminist and in 1865 founded the first women’s right organization in Germany. She became committed to training women in the industrial arts.

She trained at the famed Froebel School in Hamburg, where the benefits of early childhood education were championed. In 1870, American feminist Elizabeth Palmer Peabody brought Marwedel to New York to found kindergartens and prepare women to become skilled industrial workers. From 1872-1876 she set up schools in Washington D.C. In 1876, famed suffragette Caroline Severance brought Marwedel to Los Angeles where she founded the California Model Kindergarten and the Pacific Model Training School for Kindergartners, both funded by Severance.

MVC docent Jane Leroe discusses Emma Marwedel:

Frustrated with her work in Los Angeles, Emma Marwedel moved to Oakland and then San Francisco where she helped found the San Francisco Kindergarten Society, which established the first free kindergarten on the West Coast. She was a founding member of the California Kindergarten Union and she opened an evening vocational training school for boys.

She was a well-known lecturer, author and advocate for educational reform. She trained many teachers who went on to become reformers in the kindergarten movement and her work helped establish kindergartens across the United States.

Marwedel was honored at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1892 with a large oil portrait in the California Room. She died a year later at the German Hospital in San Francisco. Her gravestone reads, “She Loved Little Children.”

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